Ed davey

How do you say Southwell?

They were talking about the origins of the Bramley apple on The Kitchen Cabinet on the wireless last week, and naturally they spoke of Southwell, that agreeable minster town in Nottinghamshire. I was surprised, almost let down, when a local man pronounced the place-name to rhyme with mouthw’ll. I had long been careful to pronounce the –outh– like the –oth– in mother. I needn’t have been so shocked. The careful work of Klaus Forster published in 1981, A Pronouncing Dictionary of English Place-Names, includes a version of Southwell rhyming South– with mouth. Indeed it was the version, he tells us, listed in Broadcast English: Recommendations to announcers regarding the pronunciation

The unforeseen nature of consequences

In March 1847 the world first read of Mr Toots saying: ‘It’s of no consequence.’ He went on saying it for the next 13 months until the last number of Dickens’s Dombey and Son had been published. His embarrassed sallies into affairs of the heart had gained a catchphrase. Mr Toots’s remark meant ostensibly, ‘It doesn’t matter,’ but I was reminded of it by the warning that the United States issued after the killing of three of its service people in Jordan. It promised a ‘very consequential response’. To me consequential suggested a different knot of meanings, about causal effect. The insurance world thinks of consequential loss not as an

What’s in a place name?

There is a place in Westmorland called Wordsworth’s Well, but I must tell you that it is not named after me. A field in Westmorland is called Wordy Dolt, and I am glad to tell you that it is not named after me either. Here wordy (like –worthy elsewhere) means ‘enclosure’, not ‘voluble’ nor indeed ‘valuable’, and dolt means ‘share of the common field’, not ‘idiot’. I discovered this from the glorious English Place-Name Society. I call it glorious because it has been going for 100 years and is still pegging away at a survey recording and analysing historically all the place-names of England. So far 91 volumes have been

How do events become unrecognisable?

Sir Ed Davey, who leads the Lib Dems, declared last week: ‘Squatter Sunak is holed up in Downing Street, desperately clinging on to power.’ It was odd of him to remind voters of the origin of this little joke about squatting. On 8 May 2010, two days after Labour’s defeat in the general election, the Sun ran a big headline: ‘Squatter holed up in No. 10.’ A subheading read: ‘Man, 59, refuses to leave Downing Street.’ That was Gordon Brown, of course, but anyone who remembers those uncertain days will know that he was waiting to see whether the Tories and the Lib Dems would form a coalition or whether he

Why the Lib Dems want Boris back

Suddenly, out of the blue, comes a saviour. The Lib Dems have failed to capitalise on the downfall of Liz Truss. As the Tories’ polling hits record lows, all of the gains are going to Labour. This weekend, Ed Davey and his colleagues will be praying for the return of Boris Johnson. Boris was gold dust for the Lib Dems. In Ed Davey’s coveted Blue Wall seats across southern England, Boris was their greatest asset near the end of his premiership. These seats are traditionally Tory but lean Remain and socially liberal. They are also filled with the type of voters who would respond most warmly to Rishi Sunak’s ‘sensible’

The Liberal Democrats have a dangerous vision for the City of London

Liberals have always set great store by laws and declarations. It was joked about Lord Loreburn, the liberal Lord Chancellor in the years before the First World War, that if told the Germans had landed he would immediately have taken steps to obtain an interim injunction from the Chancery Division requiring an immediate withdrawal. These days something similar seems to be happening as regards the Liberal Democrats’ approach to climate change. Last Thursday Ed Davey took aim at the City, which he has decided to add to the party’s growing list of climate change villains. In a curious interview with the Guardian he put forward a modest proposal to deal

Ed Davey’s nuclear U-turn

Sir Ed Davey has called on the government to ‘keep the British taxpayer out of’ the Sizewell C nuclear plant, arguing that a part nationalisation of the project would ‘be a total betrayal of taxpayers and cost every household in Britain a small fortune’. Ministers are reportedly considering plans to strip the Chinese state-owned energy firm CGN of its 20 per cent stake, bringing the costs onto the Exchequer’s books. Mr S is pleased to see the Liberal Democrat leader stand as a lone voice for fiscal prudence — particularly because he hasn’t always been opposed to cripplingly costly nuclear deals. Between 2012 and 2015, Davey served as secretary of

PMQs: Boris feels more threatened by Sir Ed than Sir Keir

At PMQs Sir Keir Starmer led on the tricky subject of rape. He cornered the PM with a precisely worded four-part question about the fact that 98 per cent of reported rapes don’t lead to criminal charges. The PM countered that Labour had recently voted against a bill that toughened up sentences for violent sexual offenders. Sir Keir had war-gamed this in advance. And how he pounced. ‘What provision, what clause, what chapter or what words of that bill will do anything to change the fact that 98.4 per cent of reported rapes don’t end up in a charge?’ Without hesitation, Boris said, ‘Section 106 and 107 of that bill

Why the Lib Dems could soon cause trouble for Boris

Much of the focus when it comes to ‘Super Thursday’ centres on whether or not the Tories can pull off an electoral coup by snatching Hartlepool from Labour.  But the Lib Dems’ role in the drama has largely gone unnoticed – and a good result for Ed Davey’s party could spell the start of trouble for Boris Johnson. Labour needs to hold onto Hartlepool. It’s really that simple. To lose the seat, particularly to a Conservative party that has been in power for eleven years, would be devastating. Starmer is also under pressure in the local elections. To put this into perspective, Labour lost around 400 seats in the areas being contested

The new opposition: an interview with Ed Davey

When Boris Johnson sought to extend the government’s emergency powers for another six months last week, he faced little opposition in the Commons. Rather than fight for parliament’s right to scrutinise the government, Keir Starmer told Labour MPs to vote with the Tories. There was only one party of opposition: the Liberal Democrats. Ed Davey, the party leader, complained in parliament about the ‘draconian’ powers taken by the government, and whipped his MPs to vote against them. The 11 Lib Dem MPs are a much-depleted force from the 57-strong party that propped up David Cameron in the coalition years. After they have spent years struggling to find ways to be

At last, the Lib Dems are behaving like liberals

Last night in the House of Commons, MPs voted to give the government six more months of emergency powers by a tally of 484 to 76. Simple maths will tell you that the Tories could not have achieved this on their own; Starmer whipped the parliamentary Labour party to vote the measure through. It makes one wonder why — or even if — we have an official opposition at all any longer. The only party that voted as a bloc against the extension of emergency powers was the Liberal Democrats. This followed up on some fiery performances by Ed Davey in the media in the build-up to the vote, asking

Ed Davey is leading the Lib Dems to extinction

Ed Davey became leader of the Liberal Democrats almost five months ago. Since then, his party has achieved nothing. The Lib Dems currently poll at around five per cent, meaning that a party that only six years ago was in government now enjoys less support than the Greens. If this is embarrassing, it isn’t surprising: the Lib Dems have had little to say for a very long time and certainly not since Davey took the reins.  Davey fought hard to become Lib Dem leader. But it seems that his ambition stopped there. So why did he ever want to become leader in the first place? Don’t get me wrong: I have

Keir Starmer would be wise to avoid a Lib Dem alliance

The myth that is developing goes like this: Labour can’t win enough seats to form a majority government at the next election, however much the Tories may tank. They will need the SNP and almost certainly the Liberal Democrats to rule. Therefore, Labour needs to stand down in English seats where the Lib Dems have a clear shot at the Conservative party. There are several problems with this myth, but one that isn’t being talked about: the price the Lib Dems would extract for bringing a Labour minority to power would be steep, and not worth it from a Labour perspective. If Labour leader Keir Starmer is wise, this must inform